A teacher who was sexually assaulted by a pupil has been awarded more than £50,000 at an employment tribunal.
The Bury St Edmunds Employment Tribunal heard the woman, identified as Ms C, worked as a teacher at Warren School in Suffolk County – a school for pupils with learning difficulties – from 1 September 2014 to 31 December 2016.
In June 2016, C was giving a 17-year-old male student deep-tissue pressure therapy when he put his hand up her dress and ‘flapped’ it against her vagina. When C told the pupil to stop, he slapped her on the arm several times. C managed to walk away, but the student ran after her and pushed into her back.
C returned to work the following day but went home in the afternoon. She did not return to work after this and eventually resigned in December 2016. However, the following week, she was being driven to a course by a male colleague when he made a comment to the extent that she had brought the incident on herself because she was providing the pupil with deep-tissue pressure therapy. During the course, she broke down in tears and had to go home.
C reported the incident with the student but neither the school nor Suffolk County Council felt it should be recognised as a ‘sexual’ assault. C was also criticised by the head teacher for wearing a dress at the time the incident took place and was told events like these and other “challenging behaviour” were “part of the job”. These comments later prompted C to donate her dresses to charity.
C was given a return to work interview in July, where she was given a document outlining advice for working with the pupil who attacked her. She felt the document implied she had acted inappropriately and that she felt “utterly devastated” following the meeting.
Also in July, C’s trade union representative wrote a letter to the school, including complaints about the comments made by her colleague on the car journey. The representative also explained that C was struggling with various mental ill-health issues, including anxiety, tearfulness, disturbed sleep and suicidal thoughts. The letter added that this was worsening C’s pre-existing epilepsy.
The pupil eventually changed schools but C found it “demoralising” to learn that her school had not shared information about the incident with the boy with his new place of education. At the tribunal, C also spoke of “grieving for the loss of her job and her career”.
The tribunal found that, as the school required C to continue working with the pupil who assaulted her, it required her to work in an environment where sexual assault could occur, meaning indirect sex discrimination took place.
The tribunal awarded C £52,493 in total, including £16,000 for injury to feelings.
Warren School declined to comment. People Management contacted Suffolk County Council for comment but had not received a response at the time of writing.